Unless you’re a paid professional racer or lucky enough to avoid the ole’ nine-to-five, chances are you have to get up at the crack of dawn to train. Even if you’re a morning person, getting up before the sun can be tough. If you’re a masters racer there are even more challenges, such as a stiff body acting like a diesel engine on a chilly day. And, if you’re a masters racer with young kids, well, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Trust me, I know from experience. Fear not, there is a way to win the morning and win the day. Here are ten tips to prepare for dawn patrol workouts so you can win the morning and win the day!
1. KNOW THE PLAN. Leading up to this workout you should know and believe in your plan. There should be no second-guessing on what you need to get done. Know the workout, the expected effort, the bike to ride, where to ride and for how long.
2.PREPARE YOUR BIKE. Before snooze time, make certain your bike is dialed and ready to go. Before you put on those jammies your bike should have lube on the chain and proper pressure in the tires. Make sure you have your flat repair kit ready to go, too. Once a week or so check all the bolts on your bike and shoe cleats for proper tightness. There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of a quality interval and have your water bottle cage come loose or have your seat post slip. Check the integrity of your tires and brake pads, too. Is it time for a new set? Lastly, are all your battery operated devices charged up?
3. PREP YOUR FOOD. Get water bottles and on-the-bike food prepared for the ride. There’s nothing wrong with pre-mixing your hydration drinks before bed and have them chilling’ in the fridge. This also ties in to tip #1 because the amount of calories to prep should match the prescribed workout.
4. CHECK THE WEATHER. This one is a no-brainer, but has to be mentioned. Check the weather and get the proper clothing picked out. It may take a few attempts to get early morning apparel selection right because it can be cold when you start and get progressively warmer as you ride. Better to be warm than cold and shed layers as needed.
5. GET YOUR JOE READY. I know not all of you drink coffee, but if you do need a jolt of caffeine in the morning get it set up the night before. I know coffee snobs will scoff at this, but I grind my coffee the night before an early ride and put it in an airtight canister. This way it’s ready to go in the morning and I don’t have to worry about grinding coffee and waking my kids. On nights I do forget to prep my coffee I have to unplug my grinder and take it to the garage to grind it without waking the family. This is certainly not a time saving move.
6. WHAT ARE YOU EATING FOR BREAKFAST? This is a big topic, but I’ll try to keep it short. It’s hard to eat a normal breakfast early in the morning and then hop on the bike for a hard workout. What you eat will depend on a variety of factors such as how long and intense the ride is and how your stomach handles food right before a ride. Some athletes can down a bowl of oatmeal and a couple eggs with no issues. Others can barely handle half a banana. My suggestion is to experiment with a few different meals and decide what works best for you. I find most of my early morning workouts are less than two hours so a cup of coffee, and on-the-bike nutrition, like hydration mix and gels are all I need. If I don’t have at least an hour to let a meal settle in, my ride suffers. Sometimes I can even get away with a pre-ride cup of coffee and bottles filled with water for the ride.
7. WARM UP THE ENGINE. As I have gotten older I have noticed it takes my body a bit longer to heat up in the morning. I used to bounce out of bed and be ready to rumble. Now I have ease in to it. I can’t even bend over to pull my socks on without warming up first! I stole this tip from life hack master Tim Ferriss and his 5-Step Morning Routine. As part of his wake up protocol he suggests doing 10 reps of anything stating, “They are intended to ‘state prime’ and wake me up. Getting into my body, even for 30 seconds, has a dramatic effect on my mood and quiets mental chatter.” I used this tip as a way to get my blood flowing and get the heart rate up for a minute. Push-ups or air squats will be all you need. Jump rope for a minute is a good option, too. Want to multi-task like a pro? Do this while your coffee is brewing!
8. GET TO BED EARLY. Really no explanation needed here, but I’ll dive in. Sleep is the most important part of your recovery and we don’t need you losing an hour of sleep for an early morning workout. If you normally go to bed at 10:00pm, shoot for 9:00pm.
9. SET YOUR ALARM. In a perfect world, I’d love for you to wake up naturally without and alarm clock, but for most that is possible. However, you might be surprised after you get into a nice early to bed, early to rise pattern you might start waking up without the clock.
10. DRINK BEFORE BED. Sadly I mean water, not beer. This tactic may backfire for some, but I like to drink a couple large glasses of water before bed to help keep hydration levels high. I’d rather wake up in the middle of the night to tinkle rather than be dehydrated for a morning ride. A couple glasses of water before the ride can help, too!